A chart attached to notice of the April 15 Tax March in Plainfield reveals that 45.05 percent of those eligible to vote in the November general election did not go to the polls.
The chart includes all Union County municipalities and shows 23,692 registered voters in Plainfield, with 13,019 votes cast and 10,673 not voting. So only 54.95 percent of those eligible actually voted.
This year there is a mayoral election in Plainfield and currently a crowded field of candidates. It will thin out in the June 6 primary, where Democrats will vie for the party line (no Republicans have announced candidacy, to my knowledge). The primary winner and any independents who file will be on the Nov. 7 ballot.
Some of the campaign messages so far are confusing. One candidate quoted the Declaration of Independence, appearing to advocate for separation from ... what? It made me wonder how the candidate, if successful, would take the Oath of Office as mayor, in which the winner pledges "true faith and allegiance" to the Constitution of the United States and the State of New Jersey. It doesn't talk about parties or city wards or whatever other divisions may exist.
Similarly, when a candidate vows to "take Plainfield back," what does that actually mean? It implies some sort of ownership. Are we forgetting that elected officials are stewards of city resources for a specific time frame? Voters decide to whom they want to entrust that responsibility - or at least those who go to the polls decide.
I saw another call to unseat the whole school board and the whole seven-member council. Well, only three of nine school board seats come up for election in a given year, so it would take a while to convert the whole board. As for the seven-member City Council, there is one four-year term and one unexpired term on the ballot this year. Next year there are two, the First Ward and the Second & Third Ward at-large seat. In 2019, Ward 2 and the 1&4 Wards at-large seats are up, then in 2020 Ward 3 and the Citywide at-large seat. In 2021, it's again Ward 4 and the mayor. So it is a long-term, multi-year project to "vote the rascals out," as the saying goes.
Of course, the shortcut is to gain a majority on either board. If you don't like the current configuration, organize, strategize and get your partisans to the polls. Rhetoric alone won't do it.
My hope for this year is that candidates will inform themselves and speak to the issues of municipal governance, rather than deal in personalities and name-calling. And I hope voters will hold candidates to a high standard, make sure they are properly registered, and go to their voting locations on June 6 and Nov. 7.